David Bordwell's website on cinema   click for CV




Perplexing Plots: Popular Storytelling and the Poetics of Murder

On the History of Film Style pdf online

Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling

Film Art: An Introduction

Christopher Nolan: A Labyrinth of Linkages pdf online

Pandora’s Digital Box: Films, Files, and the Future of Movies pdf online

Planet Hong Kong, second edition pdf online

The Way Hollywood Tells It pdf online

Poetics of Cinema pdf online

Figures Traced In Light

Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema pdf online

Exporting Entertainment: America in the World Film Market 1907–1934 pdf online


Hou Hsiao-hsien: A new video lecture!

CinemaScope: The Modern Miracle You See Without Glasses

How Motion Pictures Became the Movies

Constructive editing in Pickpocket: A video essay


Rex Stout: Logomachizing

Lessons with Bazin: Six Paths to a Poetics

A Celestial Cinémathèque? or, Film Archives and Me: A Semi-Personal History

Shklovsky and His “Monument to a Scientific Error”

Murder Culture: Adventures in 1940s Suspense

The Viewer’s Share: Models of Mind in Explaining Film

Common Sense + Film Theory = Common-Sense Film Theory?

Mad Detective: Doubling Down

The Classical Hollywood Cinema Twenty-Five Years Along

Nordisk and the Tableau Aesthetic

William Cameron Menzies: One Forceful, Impressive Idea

Another Shaw Production: Anamorphic Adventures in Hong Kong

Paolo Gioli’s Vertical Cinema

(Re)Discovering Charles Dekeukeleire

Doing Film History

The Hook: Scene Transitions in Classical Cinema

Anatomy of the Action Picture

Hearing Voices

Preface, Croatian edition, On the History of Film Style

Slavoj Žižek: Say Anything

Film and the Historical Return

Studying Cinema


Book Reports

On the History of Film Style, 2nd ed.

On the History of Film Style
2nd edition
by David Bordwell
353-page PDF file.


For background on On the History of Film Style, see this blog entry, and read below on this page.

The study of cinematic style has profoundly shaped our attitude toward movies. Style assigns films to a tradition, distinguishes a classic, and signals the arrival of a pathbreaking innovation. David Bordwell now shows how film scholars have attempted to explain stylistic continuity and change across the history of cinema.

Bordwell scrutinizes the theories of style launched by André Bazin, Noël Burch, and other film historians. In the process he celebrates a century of cinema, integrating discussions of film classics such as The Birth of a Nation and Citizen Kane with analyses of more current box-office successes such as Jaws and The Hunt for Red October. Examining the contributions of both noted and neglected directors, he considers the earliest filmmaking, the accomplishments of the silent era, the development of Hollywood, and the strides taken by European and Asian cinema in recent years.

On the History of Film Style proposes that stylistic developments often arise from filmmakers’ serch for engaging and efficient solutions to production problems. Bordwell traces this activity across history through a detailed discussion of cinematic staging. Illustrated with more than 400 frame enlargements, this wide-ranging study provides a new lens for viewing cinema.

“Art historians might learn a lot from reading David Bordwell and listening to his version of how another historical discipline of visual imagery reconciles questions of style with both history and theory.”
Larry Silver, College Art Association Reviews (1 October 1998)

“Bordwell is always sharp and often funny… The remainder of the book, its last 114 pages, offers a brilliant account of the history of staging in depth, taking us from Meliès and Porter through Sjöström’s Ingeborg Holm and Stroheim’s Greed to Preminger’s Fallen Angel, Cukor’s A Star Is Born and Spielberg’s Jaws.”
Michael Wood, “Cheerfully Chopping Up the World,” London Review of Books (2 July 1998)

“This is a very good book. Anyone seriously interested in Film Studies should read it.” John Belton, Film Quarterly 52, 4 (Summer 1999), 55–57.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 — The Way Movies Look: The Significance of Stylistic History

Chapter 2 — Defending and Defining the Seventh Art: The Standard Version of Stylistic History

A Developing Repertoire: The Basic Story

Film Culture and the Basic Story

The Standard Version: Central Assumptions

Coming to Terms with Sound

Bardeche, Brasillach, and the Standard Version

Chapter 3 — Against the Seventh Art: Andre Bazin and the Dialectical Program

A New Avant-Garde

The Evolution of Film Language

Toward an Impure Cinema

From Stylistic History to Thematic Criticism

Chapter 4 — The Return of Modernism: Noel Burch and the Oppositional Program

Radicalizing Form

The Institutional Mode and Its Others

Living Shadows and Distant Observers

Chapter 5 — Prospects for Progress: Recent Research Programs

Piecemeal History

Culture, Vision, and the Perpetually New

Problems and Solutions

Chapter 6 — Exceptionally Exact Perceptions: On Staging in Depth

Ideology and Depth

Making the Image Intelligible

Dumb Giants

Depth, Découpage, and Camera Movement

Redefining Mise en Scène

Expanding the Image and Compressing Depth

Eclecticism and Archaism




David Bordwell
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